Hal David, Promises, Promises Lyricist Who Found a Match in Burt Bacharach, Dies at 91
By Kenneth Jones
Hal David, the pop, movie and musical theatre lyricist who wrote words to composer Burt Bacharach's music in the Broadway musical Promises, Promises — and for a slew of hit songs — died Sept. 1 of complications from a stroke, his wife Eunice David announced. He was 91.
Mr. David died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Earlier this year, Bacharach, 83, and New York City native Mr. David were recipients of the 2012 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Their songs have been heard in films and on the radio since the 1950s.
Enduring hits from their 1968 musical Promises, Promises, a stage version of the film "The Apartment," include the title song and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"; the latter includes a famous guitar-accompanied lyric that suggests that "when you kiss a guy…you get enough germs to catch pneumonia/After you do, he'll never phone ya/I'll never fall in love again." Mr. David mixed humor and rue like a good bartender mixes a delicious Manhattan.
Promises, Promises, their only Broadway musical — rife with Bacharach's tricky time signatures — was nominated for Best Musical at the 1969 Tony Awards. (It was one of several scores that decade introducing modern pop to Broadway.) In 1997 both City Center's Encores! and Reprise! in Los Angeles staged acclaimed concert versions of Promises, Promises.
A 2010 Broadway revival of the show interpolated their pop hits "I Say a Little Prayer" and "A House Is Not a Home" (both sung by Kristin Chenoweth; the show also starred Sean Hayes). Both songs were hits for Dionne Warwick, a muse for the songwriting duo.
Craig Zadan, a producing partner of the 2010 revival told Playbill.com via email on Sept. 1, "Kristin, Sean, [producers] Neil Meron and Beth Williams and I have been emailing in the last hour sharing our great sense of loss and our love and gratitude for the life and talents of Hal David. He was around quite a bit during the putting together of the revival of Promises, Promises, and he attended so many performances. He could not stop singing the praises of Sean and Kristin, and was thrilled to hear his clever and heartfelt lyrics sung with such great wit and soul.
"We are so happy he was there to experience the joy of the show during the remounting of the production and its entire run on Broadway. We will miss him and we are honored to have worked with him on his only Broadway collaboration with his brilliant songwriting partner Burt Bacharach."
Chenoweth told Playbill.com via email, "Hal David had the best smile I'd ever seen. His lovely wife, Eunice, told me how they met. As they told the story, they seemed more in love than ever. His talent is remarkable. We will still sing his songs, because they are classics. They remain true, still today. I miss you, Hal. I love you." Hayes, who was Tony-nominated for Best Actor in Promises, Promises, told Playbill.com via email, "I feel so lucky to have been able to perform his [songs] every night. He came backstage several times during the run and each time he spoke, I would see the warmth and charm he possesses, and then say to myself, 'Ah. That's where the music comes from.' He will be greatly missed."
From the beginning, Mr. David responded to Bacharach's quirky style. "His music sounded perfectly natural to me," the lyricist told Playbill in 2003. "And I think that's why the songs became hits. Because the public didn't know the music was difficult or architecturally complicated or rhythmically changeable. The public just sensed the originality, the inventiveness."
Mr. David and Bacharach also wrote songs for a 1973 flop film musical called "Lost Horizon." It led to their breakup. Lawsuits between the two writers followed, and Warwick sued them both, according to the Associated Press. The cases were settled out of court. The three reunited in 1992 for Warwick's "Sunny Weather Lover."
Mr. David and Bacharach won the 1970 Academy Award for Original Song for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Their "Alfie," "What's New, Pussycat?" and "The Look of Love" were previously nominated.
The White House echoed with their popular songs on May 9 when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama presided over "In Performance at the White House." The starry occasion celebrated the presentation by President Obama of the Gershwin Prize. Bacharach was in attendance, but Mr. David, recovering from a recent stroke, was not there to hear Stevie Wonder sing "Alfie," one of the team's many hits in a 50-year career.
In 2003, Roundabout Theatre Company produced a short-lived Broadway revue of their songs, The Look of Love.
The Grammy- and Academy-Award-winning team of Bacharach and David began collaborating in the 1950s at the Famous Paramount Music Co. in New York's Brill Building. Their songs are still recorded today. Bacharach premiered a new musical, Some Lovers, with collaborator Steven Sater at The Old Globe in San Diego in late 2011. Read Playbill.com's coverage here.
According to the Library of Congress, the first Bacharach/David song recorded in the U.S. Copyright Office is "Peggy's in the Pantry," dated May 9, 1956. Among their first big sellers were "The Story of My Life," which became a hit for Marty Robbins, and "Magic Moments," performed by Perry Como.
Their catalog includes "Only Love Can Break a Heart," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Make It Easy On Yourself," "Close to You," "A House is Not a Home," "There's Always Something There to Remind Me," "One Less Bell to Answer" and "This Guy's in Love With You," among many other songs. Movie-related songs they wrote together include "Alfie," "What's New Pussycat?," "The Look of Love," "After the Fox," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."
Bacharach and Mr. David have collaborated with other songwriters. Their most prolific time together was in the 1960s up to a hiatus in the mid-1970s. They reunited in the early 1990s with Dionne Warwick, writing a song titled "Sunny Weather Lover" for her "Friends Can Be Lovers" album.
Bacharach and Mr. David won the 2008 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the 1997 Grammy Trustees Award from The Recording Academy. Their songs resulted in more than 30 Gold Records.
Mr. David has won several Grammy Awards; he also has received the Presidential Award from the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) and the B'Nai B'rith Creative Achievement Award. As a recipient of the Ivor Novello Award, he became the first American to achieve that honor. In 1996 he and Burt Bacharach received the Johnny Mercer Award from the national Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2011, the Hall also presented Mr. David with its Visionary Leadership Award.
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